How to Hire a Contractor

Find out how to research and hire a contractor for your home energy-improvement project.

Now that you've made the decision to start saving money by making energy-efficient improvements to your home, it's time to find a qualified contractor to have the work done professionally.

Before you rush out and hire the first contractor you find, take a minute to read through all of the things you'll need to consider when hiring a contractor.

Make Sure They're Licensed

California contractors are generally required by law to hold a license from the Contractor’s State License Board to perform services. When shopping around, insist that contractors show you their California Contractors’ State License identification card. It’s a good idea to verify these with your local Contractor’s State License Board* or by calling 1-800-321-2752.

Ask for References and Bids

Ask friends and family for references. Don’t rely solely on the Yellow Pages for referrals. Interview and get bids from at least three contractors for comparison. Check out contractor references on past completed jobs.


Make sure the contractor has general liability and workers compensation insurance. These types of insurance help protect you while work is being done.

Written Contracts

Insist on a written contract that details out brands, manufacturer’s model numbers and all specifications that apply. It should also indicate the planned date of completion and an agreement for the contractor and any subcontractors to clean up after the project is finished. Any special conditions should also be included.

Contractor Payments

Be sure the contract includes a schedule of payments for the complete job. Arrange contractor payments so that the down payment (if any) doesn't exceed $1,000 or 10% of the contract, whichever is less. Also, only pay for work that's been performed–never in advance! And remember, the payment schedule in your contract must be spelled out in dollars and cents–not percentages.

Subcontractors and Suppliers

Sometimes contractors may use subcontractors or outside suppliers to help them complete your project. Don’t make final payments until you have seen receipts for bills paid by the contractor, or written waivers proving they've paid for materials and labor on the completed job.

Even if you've paid your general contractor in accordance with the contract, if they fail to pay any subcontractor or supplier, you may be responsible to subcontractors and suppliers who performed work or supplied materials for your project. You potentially bear the risk of having a Mechanic’s Lien filed against your home, if you've received a preliminary notice from any subcontractor or supplier.

Contract Changes

Once you've signed a contract, make sure all contract changes are in writing and signed by the contractor.

The actual energy savings obtained in each instance depend on various factors, including geographic location, weather conditions, equipment installed, usage rates, and so forth. Completing multiple energy saving measures will not necessarily result in cumulative savings. Any rebates provided are subject to satisfaction of applicable qualification rules. Certain rebate programs may be modified by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and are subject to the availability of funds.